Chapter one: h p I n t r oC da ut ecr tTwi oo n :n
I m p a c to f Natura l Disaster s
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A burnt out fire truck on Warragamba Avenue following the fire storm in Duffy, Australian Capital Territory, January 2003 Photo courtesy: The Canberra Times/Richard Briggs.
Impact o f Natural Disast ersthrough the loss of life and personal possessions. the probability or frequency of occurrence of a hazard,
Natural hazards have impacted on people since humans first walked on the earth. They have influenced, shaped and modified human behaviour, changing the way people live with and respond to the environment. In Australia alone, billions of dollars have been spent in trying to mitigate or prevent, prepare for, respond to and recover from natural disasters. Moreover, natural disasters have resulted in enormous intangible losses, causing grief A range of measures are used to illustrate the potential or actual impact of natural disasters. Examples include the number of people killed or injured, or the number of buildings damaged and the extent of that damage. An economic cost may be assigned, taking into account any of a number of measures. An economic cost, however, does not adequately portray the sense of enormous social loss that results from disaste r. .
Banana crops destroyed by Cyclone Larry near Innisfail, Queensland, March 2006 Photo courtesy: GeoscienceAustralia. Destruction of the curators residence in the Botanical Gardens by a flood in Brisbane, Queensland, February 1893 Photo courtesy: John Oxley Library/123308/Poul Poulsen. Damage to railway tracks resulting from an earthquake in
Meckering, Western Australia, October 1968 Photo courtesy: GeoscienceAustralia. Road damage caused by a slow moving landslide at Pleasant Hills, North Tasmania Photo courtesy: GeoscienceAustralia/captured in 1996.
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This chapter provides an insight into aspects of natural disasters in Australia, including their distribution and the influence of communities. The socioeconomic impact of natural disasters in Australia is described, as well as the role of policy in influencing the impacts of natural disasters. The primary information sources used throughout the report are also highlighted.
environment. Social effects may include fatalities, injuries, homelessness or loss of income; or seconda ry effects such as psychological impact, disease or loss of social cohesion. Economic effects may include business disruption; disruption to the supply of power, water and telecommunications; and the cost of response and relief operations. Secondary economic impacts, such as insuranc losses and e rising premiums loss of investor confidence, , and costs of providing welfare and medical assistance may also result (Institution of Civil , Engineers 1995). However, a natural hazard is not inherently negative, as hazards produce a disaster only when they impact adversely on communities. Natural hazards can bring positive environmental and social benefits. Bushfires, for example, can stimulate growth and regenerate forest ecology, as the heat from fire is required for some seeds to germinate (Luke and McArthur 1977). Floodplains are picturesque places for recreational activity and floods can bring welcome relief for people and ecosystems suffering from prolonged drought.
Natural Hazard Phenomena and their Potential EffectsNatural hazards have the potential to cause a number of primary and secondary phenomena. The secondary phenomena produced by a natural hazard vary with event, as does their severity. Tropical cyclones bring strong winds and heavy rains which cause seconda hazards ry such as flood, storm tide, landslide and water pollution. Flood inundates areas, which in turn may lead to landslide, erosion, water quality deterioration or turbidity, as well as sediment deposition. Severe storms range from isolated thunderstorms to intense lowpressure systems producing phenomena such as severe winds, heavy rain, lightning, flood, storm tide, hail and coastal erosion. Secondary effects of bushfires include water pollution, erosion and reduced water catchment yield. A landslide may block a watercourse, leading to flooding and debris flows upstream. Earthquakes may also bring fire, flood, water pollution, landslide, tsunami and soil liquefaction, which can be as devastating as the primary hazard. Each of these phenomena may produce physical, social and economic effects (Institution of Civil Engineers 1995). Physical effects on the built infrastructure may involve structural and non-structural damage and/or progressive infrastructure deterioration. They may also result in the release of hazardous materials such as chemicals which are usually stored in a safe
Primary Information Sources used for Measuring Natural Disaster ImpactThere are several sources of information which can be used to estimate the impact of natural disasters. The report Economic Costs of Natural D isastersin Australia (BTE 2001) is the main source referred to within this report for the estimated cost of disasters. Other primary information sources referred to include the Emergency Management Australia (EMA) Disasters Database (EMA 2007), the Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) Catastrophe List (ICA 2007), and Australian Government data on the Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements(NDRRA) (DOTARS 2007a).
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Red Cross volunteers helping with disaster relief, Victoria, 1986 Photo courtesy: Emergency Management Australia.
The socioeconomic cost estimates throughout this report are indicative only. Each source, and its limitations for the purpose of this report, is briefly described below. These summaries emphasise the difficulties of estimating the cost of natural disasters.
natural, technological and human-caused events. For inclusion in the database, disasters must have resulted in three or more deaths, 20 injuries or illnesses,and/or lossesof $10 million or more. Cost estimates are intended to include both insured and uninsured losses. Insured losses are sourced from the database maintained by the ICA. Uninsured losses are derived from a number of sources and relate to costs of repair and replacement to private property, public buildings, assets and records, and damaged infrastructure. Each cost estimate is stated in dollar values of the year in which the disaster occurred (EMA 2007).
Economic Costs of Natural Disasters in Australia ReportThe Economci C ost of Natural D isaster in s s Australia report (BTE 2001) was based on information from EMA Track (now the EMA Disasters Database) for the period from 1967 to 1999. In developing estimates of economic cost, insurance data from the ICA, as well as information from the media and published reports on disasters were incorporated. Only natural , disaster in Australia with an estimated total cost s greater than or equal to $10 million (excluding costs associate with deaths and injuries) were d considered. Both tangible and intangible costs were considered where the data were available. Estimate are usually given in 1998 dollar s values. Details on the limitations in the completenes and accurac of data used are s y provided in the report.
Insurance Council of Australias Catastrophe L istThe Catastrophe List (or database) maintained by the ICA contains data on insured natural disasters since 1967. The database includes events which are likely to cost $10 million or more, or events declared a disaster by an appropriate government authority irrespective of the loss sustained. Insured losses are original costs incurred at the time of the event. The ICA database records insured losses for an event by aggregating the losses from the following categories: residential (property, contents, vehicle); commercial (property, contents, vehicle, plant and equipment, interruption); rural (fencing, plant and equipment, crop); marine;
Emergency Management Australias Disasters DatabaseThe EMA Disasters Database is the main Australian Government database containing information on injuries, fatalities and costs of
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aviation; and engineering and construction The database is updated following each disaster event, though it can take up to 12 months for the full insured cost, particularly the commercial component, to be known.
Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements DataThe NDRRA are administered by DOTARS on behalf of the Australian Government. Financial assistance is provided to eligible Australian states and territories following natural disasters. Relief measures provided under the NDRRA include grants for relief of personal hardship and distress; concessiona interest rate loans to l primary producers, small businesses voluntary , non-profit bodies and individual in need; s restoration or replacement of essential public assets; and provision of counselling. In severe events, a community recovery package which includes a communit recovery fund and y clean-up grants for small businesse and primary s producers may also be made available, subject to the approval of the Prime Minister (DOTARS 2007b).
Limitations of Data and Information SourcesThe intended purposes of each data source must be considered when looking at the information they provide. Of the four mentioned above, only the NDRRA and ICA resources are confined to data obtained directly from the original source. The data on NDRRA are limited to providing estimates on the Australian Governments NDRRA expenditure following natural disaster events. NDRR